Zara McKibbin, practice hygienist and winner of the Best Dental Care Professional at the 2014 Irish Dentistry Awards, shares her thoughts on prevention, products and the team’s efforts to get their oral health messages out into the community.
‘A passion for prevention’ is the motto of the Newry based Appletree dental care team. Here the practice strives to give its patients the very best possible care and feels the only way to achieve this is through a strong preventative ethos.
Making a positive start
‘At Appletree Dental we believe we have a well-balanced and technically knowledgeable team, where each staff member is passionate about the practice and delivering a patient-centric service. We want to give patients the smiles they deserve and the information to make those smiles last a lifetime,’ says Zara.
‘During a new patient consultation we not only identify existing problems but also investigate risk areas to establish how these can be cared for, because for us prevention is about foreseeing potential problems. As soon as a patient enters the doors of our practice, we want them to feel welcome and valued.
‘Often patients say to us that they enjoy attending their appointments, not only because of the high standard of dentistry provided, but also because they look forward to seeing the team again. We want our patient experience to exceed their expectations on every encounter, whether that is during a reminder phone call or a hygiene examination. Our aim is to have happy patients who are well informed and feel included in their treatment and maintenance plans.’
Laying solid foundations
Patient education is the foundation of the team’s treatment approach, with each patient having an appointment with Zara. ‘I often give patients a mirror and take them through a guided tour of their own mouths, either showing them where more care and attention is needed or pointing out what a great job they have done in taking on board previous instructions. We demonstrate in detail all oral hygiene aids recommended and take a picture of the patient correctly using them to take home, backed up with written information.
‘Most importantly we review regularly how they are getting on. We find disclosing a solution a very important tool in our education, as it is only possible to have a joint approach to treatment if the patient recognises and acknowledges the problem.’
As part of the team’s oral health advice they are strongly recommending Oral-B Pro Expert toothpaste with its stabilised stannous fluoride composition together with rechargeable oscillating rotating brushes. Zara reports that around 70% of their patients are now using an Oral-B electric brush.
When combined with daily interdental cleaning they are seeing a reduction in gingival inflammation, bleeding on probing and extrinsic staining, whilst patients are commenting on their shinier, smoother teeth and fresh breath. Using the Oral-B Test Drive demonstration unit, Zara is able to show patients how to effectively clean their teeth and the patient can practise this whilst in the chair.
‘We believe that giving instruction on oral hygiene practices using a model is nowhere near as effective as being able to demonstrate in the patient’s mouth so they can actually feel the difference. It’s also excellent for those with toothbrush abrasion, as once they are aware of the pressure sensor, they can suddenly break their scrubbing habit.’
Going the extra mile
‘With such a high rate of dental caries in Northern Ireland it is important we reach those who are not visiting our practice. Working alongside other health professionals we see it as our responsibility to educate the population and break the lifestyle trend in Northern Ireland that is causing these issues.’
In response to this the team has been involved in a whole raft of community health events. Zara is enthusiastic: ‘For No Smoking Day we joined with other local healthcare professionals visiting pharmacies and workplaces to share the importance of smoking cessation not only for oral health but general wellbeing.
‘We also took part in the Belfast Marathon, again raising awareness of the link between general and oral health and raising valuable funds for a suicide awareness charity in our area. Another fantastic event was the Down Division of the Rose of Tralee. We even managed to arrange a presentation for the Roses on how to add that extra sparkle to their smiles!’
One of the team’s favourite campaigns is National Smile Month, a project they wholeheartedly support, with last year being no exception. Zara recalls: ‘We set our targets high and wanted to reach as much of Newry City as possible. We were privileged to be invited to the main shopping centre during a busy weekend so were able to promote oral health to hundreds of people, handing out the logo “Smileys” together with free toothpaste samples and balloons.
‘During the month we also organised a “brushathon” with over 500 school children attending Clontifleece Primary School and visited many local businesses, giving presentations and handing out literature during a one day “Appletree Road Show”.’
Spreading the word
Appletree Dental’s presence in the area is also complemented by a column in the local paper, entitled Oral Health Matters, the regular articles link to different awareness events and campaigns in the dental calendar.
The practice also has its own Facebook page, posting dental events and oral health promotion videos. Innovatively Zara and a colleague have created and posted their own videos to demonstrate the correct tooth brushing and flossing techniques, further demonstrating their enthusiasm and commitment to spreading oral health messages, both to patients and beyond the practice.